Originally from The Gambia, Sophia Thakur has established herself as one of the UK’s most gifted spoken word artist and poet. Her outstanding ability to captivate, inspire, educate and entertain her audience has earned her many, many fans. Last year she performed at the world renowned Glastonbury Festival in England. Although born in the UK, Sophia is still connected to the motherland, The Gambia. A few years ago, she talked to What’s On Gambia. Excerpts:
Your second name, Thakur is not Gambia. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your Gambian connection?
Indeed, it’s actually Indian as my father is half Indian and half Gambian. Similarly, my mother is half Sri Lankan and half Gambian. They both grew up in Africa however.
When last were you in The Gambia and how would you describe that moment?
It’s been a good few years since I was last on home soil. What clings to me most is the heat obviously, how close everything is to each other, and the hospitality of family members I hadn’t ever met. There’s always something special about stepping out of the airport and breathing in the air with the idea of being at home in mind.
You’re a spoken word artist and poet- why poetry?
I find myself giving different answers to this question each time I’m met with it. I guess that’s because there is no limit to the reasons I do poetry. It’s one of the only things that feels natural to me. I know it sounds corny, but when I’m writing or on stage, I know what I’m doing. When I write it’s one of the only times I feel God’s presence around. That alone is enough reason to write.
Your poems are mainly about the struggles that women and teenagers go through. What do you seek through in your poetry?
I would love to change people’s mindsets for the better. If I can do that, I’ll be a happy woman. As well as that I’d like to dictate the feelings we experience but can’t label or communicate.
How would you say your experience living in the UK as a [young] black [person] influenced your poetry?
It’s influenced my work rate towards poetry more than anything. While I know I must strike a balance between schoolwork and poetry, it’s made me want to work extra hard to defeat the odds that are piled against me and others like me. I’d like to speak on behalf of my people.
Have you ever been termed a certain type of poet by others?
I’m a storyteller. If I’m anything as a poet, I’m a storyteller. I’ve been told I take listeners on journeys which is what my pen does to me as I write, so I’m glad I can do the same for others.
Spoken word is gradually becoming popular in The Gambia, any advice for your fellow young poets?
The best advice I was given was to always remember that you have a story worth telling. It’s still something I’m coming to grips with, but it makes all the difference. Often we tell ourselves that what we see and experience isn’t poem worthy, but what we should tell ourselves instead is that we should refine our skills, to make our stories, stories of excellence.
Would you like to perform in The Gambia?
More than anywhere else in the world! If someone made this happen for me this year, I would be ecstatic.
What’s your favorite Gambian dish and why?
Supakanja (soup-ah-kan-jah). It’s been our Saturday dish for as long as I can remember. Other West African countries tend to eat their okra soup with fufu or banku, but most Gambians I know eat it with rice. I’m more of a rice person myself. Just talking about it has made me hungry!
You can follow Sophia: Facebook; Twitter: @soundwordsmith; Instagram: sophiathakur